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Public Sector and Governance

Crowdsourcing Poverty Research

Gabriel Demombynes's picture

A tremendous amount of development research is all but unknown in the countries that are the subject of that research. In Kenya, this is the case with path-breaking papers like the Kremer-Miguel Worms study and the Cohen-Dupas insecticide-treated net pricing experiment.

To increase the visibility of such policy-relevant work, we’re producing a "Kenya 2011 Poverty Research Review" that will be published early next year as part of our larger Poverty Update report, which will be widely publicized in Kenya.

The Poverty Research Review will give an overview of poverty-related research on Kenya published in 2011 in journals or working paper series. There is a wide pool of work to draw from: a search on "Kenya" and "poverty" in Google Scholar produces 12,900 references for works produced in 2011.

As an experiment, I’m going to try drawing from the wisdom of crowds for this project.  Please help me with your suggestions for high-quality papers on poverty-related issues in Kenya that you would like to see highlighted in our review.

Decentralizing Kenya: Four Paradoxes

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

When I was growing up in Bavaria—Germany’s largest and proudest state—there were a lot of efforts to revive remote regions, especially those bordering the former East Germany and Czechoslovakia.

There were special incentives for industries to locate in these regions and important federal subsidies to their local governments. Other countries made much more radical attempts at reshaping their economic geography.

Indonesia forced people from “overpopulated” Java to resettle in remote parts of the country, including to the culturally distinct province of Papua. Brazil, Nigeria, and Tanzania relocated their capitals to “decongest” their mega-cities.

All of these experiments yielded the same result: complete failure! Germany’s remote regions never became centers of economic activity, while the big cities—especially in emerging economies—continued to mushroom and grow.

These lessons are important for Kenya as it embarks on a massive decentralization program—arguably the most radical in the world today.

Rwanda: Resilience in the face of adversity

Birgit Hansl's picture

In times of regional and global turbulence, Rwanda’s economy has demonstrated remarkable resilience. A new Rwanda Economic Update shows why.

In 2011, growth will reach 8.8 percent, inflation has been contained below 10 percent and the exchange rate remains stable. This economic resilience reflects sound macroeconomic management.

Rwanda’s growth prospects for 2011 compare favorably with others in the region, but this outlook is contingent on three factors.  First, prudent macroeconomic management continues, inflation is at single digits and the exchange rate remains stable. 

Informing the Poor: Four Critiques

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Over the last decade, there has been increasing enthusiasm for empowering poor people by giving them information.  For instance, sharing information about absentee teachers and doctors, the availability of drugs in clinics, and the effectiveness of development projects will enable poor people (the intended beneficiaries of these programs) to demand better services—and get them. 

I share this enthusiasm and may even have contributed in a small way to it.  But at a recent aid data conference, I thought I’d consider the criticisms that such efforts have received, and some responses.

1.  They already know.  Poor people don’t need to be told that the teacher is absent from the public primary school.  Their children have been telling them this for years. 

Three myths about aid to Kenya

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

The World Bank and IMF have received much press attention in recent weeks in Kenya.  The Kenyan Kazi Kwa Vijana (“work for youth”) initiative, which the Bank was supporting through its Youth Empowerment Project, and Government’s decision to request substantial IMF funding to support macroeconomic stability have been the source of heated debates in parliament.

This gives me an opportunity to share some thoughts which are influenced by “Delivering Aid Differently”, a book which Homi Kharas and I co-authored and launched in Nairobi and Washington a year ago.

In recent years, the aid industry has been a focus of critical examination and the object of debate.

Why has the Kenyan Shilling declined so sharply?

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

How would you feel if, after a normal take-off, you noticed one of the engines on your plane wasn’t working properly? What if you then found out the other engine was overheating? Now suppose the captain announces that you should buckle-up because the plane is about to meet an approaching hurricane?

This is what Kenya’s economy is currently going through. The country is in the middle of a perfect storm, and the declining Shilling is the most visible manifestation of Kenya’s economic woes. Why has the Shilling been falling so much and so unpredictably?

The main reason is that Kenya’s economy is increasingly imbalanced: the country is importing too much and exporting too little.

Taxing the poor… through inflation

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

Imagine you are spending half of your income on something whose price suddenly increases by a quarter. Seems impossible? This is how in fact inflation has hit the poor in many developing countries, especially Kenya.

This September, overall inflation reached a record high of 17.3 percent. One year ago it was just above 3 percent. Why has it increased so sharply even though Kenya has followed prudent macro policies? The short answer is: food and fuel. In Kenya, food accounts for 36 percent of the average person’s expenditures; energy and transport another 27 percent. The urban poor spend more than 43 percent on food. Since January, food prices have increased by almost 25 percent (see figure), partly as a result of international trends but also due to Kenya’s- agriculture policies. Maize prices tripled between January and June until they retreated a little once the government waived import duties and the 2011 harvest started trickling in. 

Protecting the Minnow - Lesotho Economic Update

As uncertainty increases about where the global economy is headed and whispers grow about a “double-dip,” spare a thought for Lesotho.

A small developing country (population less than 2 million), Lesotho is located in one of the most resource-poor parts of Southern Africa.  Around 37% of households live on less than $1/day and about half are below the national poverty line. As a small and relatively undiversified economy, heavily dependent on foreign markets, Lesotho is very vulnerable to shocks. It is also ill-equipped to deal with them.

Cameroon: Towards better service delivery

Raju Jan Singh's picture

The quality of service delivery is fundamental for people's wellbeing, especially for the poor. This is why the situation in Cameroon is worrisome.

Indicators for service delivery in Cameroon tend to trail behind those observed in countries at similar income levels; and for indicators such as primary school completion or child mortality, the country does even worse than the average for Sub-Saharan Africa.

Pour qu’un Etat fonctionne il lui faut de bonnes institutions et des dirigeants de qualité.

Jacques Morisset's picture

Or, à Madagascar, seule 1/5 de la population déclare faire entièrement confiance à la Présidence et les taux sont encore plus faibles pour des institutions comme l’Assemblée nationale (6%) et les Tribunaux (4%).Comment s’attendre à ce que le Gouvernement puisse être performant, à travers sa politique budgétaire, si la vaste majorité des Malgaches ne font confiance ni à leurs institutions, ni à leurs dirigeants ? 

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